Ladakh: Indian Army allows use of firearms under ‘extraordinary circumstances’

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on June 22, 2020

A file picture of army patrol teams being briefed in the sub-sector North along the line of actual control with China.   -  Dinakar Peri

The Indian Army has altered the rules of engagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. The new rules now empower field commanders to use firearms under “extraordinary” circumstances, NDTV reported.

This comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh indicated that India is capable of retaliating in equal measure to the aggressive Chinese personnel, if the brawl grows further in Ladakh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier said the Army has been given full freedom to deal with the on-ground situation.

Under previous rules of engagement - agreements signed in 1996 and 2005 - neither side opens fire on the other. The two countries had also agreed not to use blasting explosives or firearms within two kilometres of either side of the LAC.

India lost 20 soldiers in a recent clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh.

A further 76 Indian troops were injured, army officials told NDTV. None of them suffered critical injuries and are expected to be back on duty in a week, officials added.

Indian troops were attacked with iron rods, nail-studded clubs and rocks wrapped in barbed wire in the fight near Patrol Point 14 - a vantage point in Indian territory that overlooks Chinese positions on their side of the LAC, the de-facto border between the two countries.

However, the Centre and army officials have not revealed the casualties on the Chinese side, but sources have told NDTV the number stands at 45. This information is based on intercepts as well as Chinese choppers seen in the area.

Reacting to the Indian Army's new rules for using firearms, Hu Xijin, Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese government's mouthpiece Global Times tweeted: "If true, this is a serious violation of the agreement, & the Indian side will pay a heavy price for any such action."

The violence in Ladakh has unleashed political bickering in India. The opposition Congress has questioned the Modi government over possible intelligence failures in the build-up to the clash.

Ahead of Friday's all-party meeting, Sonia Gandhi asked: "Did military intelligence not alert the government about the intrusion and build-up of massive forces along the LAC...?"

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi called PM Modi "Surender Modi", and has since pointed to satellite images to claim that China had "captured Indian territory near Pangong Lake".

A day after the clash, Prime Minister Modi said "the country will be proud to know that our soldiers died fighting the Chinese" and that "valor and courage is our country's character".

"We never provoke anyone, but we will not compromise with integrity and sovereignty. Whenever the time has come, we have proved our strength and capabilities in protecting our integrity and sovereignty," the Prime Minister said.

India has blamed the clashes on "an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there," rebutting China's claims that Indian soldiers crossed the border.

Published on June 22, 2020

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